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Local News

  • More study needed on nuclear pit production

    STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS

    The agency that oversees the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile says further study is needed to determine the best option for the United States as it looks to ramp up production of the plutonium cores that trigger nuclear weapons.

    The National Nuclear Security Administration said Monday that a team of external and internal engineering experts will further analyze the two options that were identified as part of an earlier review that looked at the most efficient and cost effective means of making the pits.

    Agency spokeswoman Lindsey Geisler told The Associated Press the options include leaving the work to Los Alamos National Laboratory or moving it to the U.S. Energy Department’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

    It’s not clear how long the extra analysis will take, but the agency said new pits must be made to ensure the nation’s nuclear forces are flexible and tailored to deter 21st-century threats.

    Since news of the report surfaced Monday, New Mexico’s congressional delegation has been on the defensive.

  • Balderas continues to fight Trump agenda

    Since President Donald Trump was elected in November 2016, New Mexico’s Attorney General Hector Balderas has filed legal challenges against the president’s agenda more than 30 times.

    Balderas, a Democrat, has joined with attorneys general in several other states over the past several months to challenge Trump’s actions on the environment, affordable health care, travel bans and the status of young immigrants, among other issues.

    At least one sector, the oil and gas industry, questioned Balderas’s opposition to Trump’s actions to deregulate energy production and use.

    For the past several months, three attorneys who work for the office have been assigned to the federal filings, said James Hallinan, communications director for Balderas.

    “They are public employees and this is one of many parts of their numerous job duties, handling these cases,” Hallinan said.

    There is no cost to file the paperwork at the federal courts in Washington, New York, San Francisco, and elsewhere, Hallinan said.

    In the U.S. Supreme Court, New Mexico is among several other states with amicus – or friend – filings made in regards to redistricting, voting rights and gay rights, by Balderas and attorneys working for his office.

  • Health office on list of County Council’s legislative priorities

    Los Alamos County Council has put the full reinstatement of a state public health office for the county on its list of legislative priorities.

    Citing budget cut backs and data supporting not enough need in the community, the New Mexico Department of Health cut hours and staff at its Diamond Avenue office in 2016, and transferred most of those service to its Española branch.

    The department based its decision on data it received about the number of times the office is actually used to counsel Los Alamos teens on unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.  

    The office, which is located across the street from the high school, was seen as a place for teens to go for confidential advice and services. The county pays for the space for the office, and is has been asking the state to restore the office to full-service.

    “It’s something we’ve been working on since they shut down, or effectively shut down the one we’ve got, having our teenagers drive to Española to get some confidential help,” Councilor Rick Reiss said.

    Reiss also said the request is also more than just about getting their health office back, it’s about having the state meet its obligations to its citizens.

  • Polaris Charter School proposal draws crowd

    Organizers of a proposed charter school for middle school-age students in Los Alamos welcomed more than 100 people to an introductory reception Friday night at Fuller Lodge.

    Jamie Civitello, a parent, said she came out on a busy night to learn more about the Polaris Charter School proposal.

    “I support land-based learning and I’d like to have more options,” she said, after thumbing through a large book – one of many materials set out, along with instructional games, to engage children and their parents at tables set up for that purpose.

    Meanwhile, children examined different types of rocks under magnification or picked up simple coding techniques on a lap top computer to move around a plastic creature.

    Organizers of the proposed Polaris Charter School, for students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades said they’ve got quite a journey ahead of them to reach their goal of opening the school by August 2019.

    They face an initial deadline in January for a notice of intent to the state Public Education Department, then a full application in June.

    Funding, a facility, and whether Polaris will be a “local” charter school authorized by Los Alamos Public Schools or the state Public Education Commission are still unknown, organizers said.

  • Diverse team of New Mexico lawmakers drafts harassment rules

    SANTA FE (AP) — Eight New Mexico state lawmakers have been assigned to rewriting policies that guard against sexual harassment in the Statehouse amid accounts by women of entrenched misconduct.

    The working group that met this week includes a retired First Amendment-rights attorney and a millennial-generation organizer for social justice causes. Republicans and Democrats are equally represented, while women outnumber men 5-3.

    Republican Rep. Kelly Fajardo of Belen already has made it clear she wants independent investigations of future harassment complaints to safeguard against reprisals and build trust.

    She'll be working alongside GOP Rep. Jim Dines, the driving force behind a 2018 ballot measure to create an independent state ethics commission.

    Democrats in the commission include first-term legislator Angelica Rubio of Las Cruces and two committee chairwomen.
     

  • Citizens in Action to present code options to council tonight

     

  • New Mexico state senator ends bid for lieutenant governor

    SANTA FE (AP) — Democratic New Mexico state Sen. Michael Padilla says he is withdrawing his name as a candidate for lieutenant governor.

    Padilla announced the end of his campaign on Monday amid concerns about decade-old accusations of sexual harassment at a previous job with the city of Albuquerque. Padilla has repeatedly denied accusations that he created a sexually hostile work environment.

    Padilla says he accepts responsibility for making too many changes too quickly as a supervisor at an emergency communications center in Albuquerque in 2006.
     

  • The Latest: US: More study needed on nuclear pit production

    The agency that oversees the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile says further study is needed to determine the best option for the United States as it looks to ramp up production of the plutonium cores that trigger nuclear weapons.

    The National Nuclear Security Administration said Monday that a team of external and internal engineering experts will further analyze the two options that were identified as part of an earlier review that looked at the most efficient and cost effective means of making the pits.

    Agency spokeswoman Lindsey Geisler tells The Associated Press the options include leaving the work to Los Alamos National Laboratory or moving it to the U.S. Energy Department's Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

    It's not clear how long the extra analysis will take, but the agency said new pits must be made to ensure the nation's nuclear forces are flexible and tailored to deter 21st-century threats.

    The NNSA has yet to release a report on the risks and capabilities of LANL and other U.S. Energy Department sites when it comes to producing plutonium cores for the weapons.

    The report by the NNSA was due over the summer but nothing has been made public other than a redacted summary sheet obtained by a watchdog group in the wake of recent congressional briefings.

  • Trump takes rare step to reduce 2 national monuments in Utah

    SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — President Donald Trump on Monday took the rare step of scaling back two sprawling national monuments in Utah, declaring that "public lands will once again be for public use" in a move cheered by Republican leaders who lobbied him to undo protections they considered overly broad.

    The decision marks the first time in a half century that a president has undone these types of land protections. Tribal and environmental groups oppose the decision and are expected to go to court in a bid to stop Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

    Trump made the plan official during a speech at the State Capitol, where he signed proclamations to shrink the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. Both monuments encompass millions of acres of land.

    State officials said the protections were overly broad and closed off the area to energy development and other access.

    Environmental and tribal groups say the designations are needed to protect important archaeological and cultural resources, especially the more than 1.3 million-acre (2,030-square-mile) Bears Ears site featuring thousands of Native American artifacts, including ancient cliff dwellings and petroglyphs.

    Trump argued that the people of Utah know best how to care for their land.

  • New Mexico sees rebound in tax revenues, oil sector

    SANTA FE (AP) — Surging state tax revenues and a rebound in the oil and natural gas sectors are propelling a rapid turnaround in New Mexico government finances, state economists told a panel of lawmakers on Monday.

    State government income for the fiscal year starting on July 1, 2018, is expected to surpass current annual spending by $199 million, economists told the state's lead budget-writing committee.

    The forecast signaled that state government is emerging from two years of austerity measures that resulted in slashed spending at state universities and colleges, while threatening funding for classrooms, courts and museums.

    "It's really good to be here today to present some really good news," Finance and Administration Secretary Duffy Rodriguez said.

    Economists at four state agencies told lawmakers to expect an additional 3.3 percent in general fund spending money over the current $6.1 billion budget.

    Much of the fiscal rebound comes from personal income taxes — an estimated $167 million increase during the current and coming fiscal years. Income from oil and natural gas was adjusted upward by $140 million for the same period.